Legislative Bulletin – Friday, February 10, 2017

Policy and Advocacy Associate

February 10, 2017

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
GOVERNMENT REPORTS

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

S. 232

The bill would eliminate the EB-5 investor visa program and would reallocate these visas to employment-based visa categories.

Sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D – California) (1 cosponsors)

01/24/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Feinstein

01/24/2017 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

S. 303

PROTECT Immigration Act

This bill would rescind the statutory authority for the federal government’s 287(g) Program, which permits the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies for the purposes of enforcing federal immigration law.

Sponsored by Senator Cory Booker (D – New Jersey) (6 cosponsors)

02/03/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Booker

02/03/2017 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

S. 349

Access to Counsel Act

This bill would guarantee individuals held or detained while attempting to enter the United States, whether at a border crossing or a port of entry, access to legal counsel.

Sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris (D – California) (6 cosponsors)

02/09/2017 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Harris

02/09/2017 Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 844

Terrorist Deportation Act

The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to make individuals placed in the Terrorist Screening Database by law enforcement officials eligible for immediate and mandatory deportation proceedings if they are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Sponsored by Representative Jeff Duncan (R – South Carolina) (10 cosponsors)

02/03/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Duncan

02/03/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 852

Freedom of Religion Act

The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to prohibit barring immigrants, refugees and international visitors from entry to the United States or access to other immigration benefits on the basis of religion.

Sponsored by Representative Don Beyer (D – Virginia) (102 cosponsors)

02/03/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Beyer

02/03/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 887

This bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to extend honorary U.S. citizenship to otherwise qualified noncitizens who enlisted and died while serving on active duty with the United States Armed Forces during certain periods of hostilities in the Philippines.

Sponsored by Representative Walter Jones (R – North Carolina) (0 cosponsors)

02/06/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Jones

02/06/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 912

The bill would provide punishments for immigration-related fraud.

Sponsored by Representative Bill Foster (D – Illinois) (18 cosponsors)

02/07/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Foster

02/07/2017 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 920

The bill would provide that Executive Order 13767, entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” has no force or effect and prohibit the use of federal funds to enforce the Executive Order.

Sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D – California) (o cosponsors)

02/07/2017 Introduced in the House by Representative Lofgren

02/07/2017 Referred to the House Committees on the Judiciary, Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will be in session the week of Monday, February 13, 2016.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Secretary of Labor Nomination

Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. (Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions)

Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witness:     

Andrew Puzder, Secretary of Labor Nominee

A Dangerous and Sophisticated Adversary: The Threat to the Homeland Posed by Cartel Operations

Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. (House Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security)

Location: 210 House Capitol Visitor Center (CVC)

Witnesses: TBA

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Legal

Appeals Court Rules Against Reinstating Travel Ban Executive Order

On February 9, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected President Donald Trump’s appeal of a district court decision halting his executive order barring travel into the United States from all refugees and nationals from seven majority-Muslim nations. The court rejected the government’s argument that the suspension of the executive order should be lifted immediately for national security reasons and noted that the administration showed “no evidence” that anyone from the seven nations had committed terrorist acts in the United States. The court also rejected the administration’s claims that courts cannot review a president’s national security assessments by noting that “the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.”

U.S. District Judge James Robart originally issued a temporary restraining order halting the executive order on February 4. The White House immediately appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit. Trump later said in a speech at a law enforcement conference on February 8 that the order is meant to stop national security threats from coming to the United States and that current executive power allows the president to “suspend…put restrictions…do whatever you [the president] want.” After the Ninth Circuit released its decision, Trump responded by tweeting, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” The administration can appeal the Ninth Circuit ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court as early as February 10.

On February 10, the White House noted that it was not ruling out the possibility of rewriting the executive order in light of the recent court decisions.

Federal

Businesses, Evangelical Leaders Come Out Against Trump’s Travel Ban Executive Order

President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning nationals from seven countries and all refugees from coming to the United States received strong opposition from scores of major companies and more than 100 evangelical leaders. A total of 127 companies filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit declaring that Trump’s executive order “violates the immigration laws and the Constitution,” and represents “a sudden shift in the rules governing entry into the United States.” The court papers argue that the ban is inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies. The companies who joined the amicus brief include major tech corporations, such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter. Other companies backing the brief include Chobani, Kind and Levi Strauss. All three companies were founded by immigrants.

In addition, more than 100 prominent evangelical leaders, including at least one from each state, signed a letter in a full-page newspaper advertisement to denounce the executive order. The letter states that “[a]s Christian pastors and leaders” the signers are “deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement.” The letter also notes that Christians have a historical call to serve the suffering. While the letter acknowledges the government’s role in securing the country, it notes that the order fails to strike the right balance between compassion and security, leading innocent people to suffer.

Report: Trump’s Executive Orders on Interior Enforcement and Border Security Could Target Eight Million People for Deportation

President Donald Trump’s executive orders on interior enforcement and border security could result in up to eight million undocumented immigrants being considered priorities for deportation, according to calculations by the Los Angeles Times. The deportation targets in the executive orders are a much larger group than under previous administrations. Under President Obama, individuals with multiple or significant criminal violations and recent arrivals were the top priority for removal, a grouping of about 1.4 million people. Trump’s executive order covers a much larger group of eight million people, including anybody convicted of, charged with, or believed to have committed an act constituting any crime. Trump’s executive order also calls for targeting anyone who lied on government forms, including employment forms where undocumented immigrants may have stated that they were legally allowed to work.

Trump Signs New Executive Orders to Combat Crime, Transnational Criminal Organizations

President Donald Trump announced three new executive orders on February 9 which direct federal law enforcement to increase their efforts against international criminal organizations and reduce violent crime against law enforcement. One of the orders states that it shall be the policy of the executive branch to prevent the success of transnational criminal organizations, in part by cracking down on those who “exploit” the U.S. immigration system and by preventing immigration and visa fraud. Another of the orders would create a task force on crime reduction that would explicitly focus on “illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime.” The executive orders were announced at the February 9 swearing-in of Senator Jeff Sessions (R – Alabama) as attorney general.

Sessions Sworn-in as Attorney General, Puzder Hearing Set for February 16

Senator Jeff Sessions (R – Alabama) was sworn-in on February 9 as the 84th U.S. Attorney General after being confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 52-47 the previous day. Sessions, who faced questions during the confirmation process over his restrictive immigration views and record on civil rights, gave a speech after the ceremony in which he said that the United States needs “a lawful system of immigration…[that] services the interest of the people of the United States,” arguing “[t]hat’s not wrong, that’s not immoral, that’s not indecent.”

Additionally, the confirmation hearing for Labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder is now scheduled for Thursday, February 16. Puzder’s confirmation hearing was delayed several times after the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee failed to receive his paperwork from the Office of Government Ethics, but the paperwork is now in place. On February 7, Puzder admitted to employing an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper for several years, but vowed that he was unaware of his employees’ status and corrected the situation once he found out. The Department of Labor is responsible for managing skills and workforce development programs for all Americans, including legal immigrants and new American citizens.

Kelly Testifies on Travel Ban, Border Security at House Homeland Security Hearing

On February 7, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly testified for the first time in his new capacity before the House Committee on Homeland Security. The hearing ostensibly focused on security at the southern border, but the discussion regularly turned to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning all refugees and nationals from seven countries from entering the United States. Kelly stated that he should have consulted with Congress on the executive order and delayed the order’s implementation for at least one or two days. However, he reiterated the Trump Administration’s position that the purpose of the executive order is to keep Americans safe, arguing at one point that the refugee vetting process is “at best loose.” Representative Michael McCaul (R – Texas), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, also defended the purpose of the executive order, but said that its rollout was problematic.

In addition, Kelly noted that DHS will not be able to build a 2,000-mile-long wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and that “We’re not going to be able to build a wall everywhere, all at once.” He said DHS will focus on see-through fencing in areas where Border Patrol agents say it is needed most and noted that the best approach to secure the border is to have a layered defense. Kelly also said that he does not want to penalize law enforcement agencies in the ongoing “sanctuary cities” by revoking their law enforcement grants, but stated that other grants linked to immigration-related issues may be at risk. Finally, Kelly urged Congress to change the law to protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhoods Arrivals if members are concerned the fate of the DREAMers, saying that he is tasked with enforcing the law as written.

Cotton, Perdue Introduce Bill to Cut Legal Immigration by 50 Percent within 10 Years

Senators Tom Cotton (R – Arkansas) and David Perdue (R – Georgia) unveiled new legislation on February 7 that would dramatically reduce legal immigration to the United States. The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act would reduce the annual number of legal immigrants who can obtain green cards and other visas to come to the United States, retaining immigration preferences for the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents (LPRs), while eliminating preferences for other categories of extended and adult family members, including adult parents, adult siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens and unmarried adult children of LPRs. For U.S. citizens who wish to bring their parents in need of caretaking to the United States, the bill would create a renewable temporary visa on the condition that the parents are not permitted to work, access public benefits and must be guaranteed support and health insurance by their children. The bill would also eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery, which provides a total of 50,000 visas each year to countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Furthermore, the bill would limit refugees offered permanent resident status to 50,000 a year. Cotton estimates that the bill would reduce legal immigration to the United States by 41 percent to 637,960 in its first year and by 50 percent to 539,958 in its tenth year. In 2015, about 1,051,031 legal immigrants arrived in the United States. Cotton stated that the legislation is the first step in revamping the current immigration system away from a family-based immigration system.

Feinstein, Grassley Introduce Bill to End EB-5 Visa Program

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa) introduced S. 232 on January 24, which would end the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The EB-5 visa program grants permanent immigrant visas to foreign-born investors who invest $1 million, or $500,000 in a Targeted Employment Area (high unemployment or rural area), and create or preserve 10 full-time jobs in the United States within two years of their admission. Feinstein and Grassley argue the program suffers from fraud and abuse.

DHS May Start Requiring Travelers’ Website Histories and Passwords

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said on February 7 that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may start requiring some travelers to provide recently-visited websites and passwords to their social media accounts before entering the United States. In particular, Kelly said that the administration is considering requiring residents of the seven countries banned from coming to the United States by President Donald Trump’s executive order to provide such information. CBP maintains that it has power to collect social media data to enhance the existing investigative process, and there are reports that CBP officers are already requesting such information or access to travelers’ cellphones.

State & Local

Arizona Mother of Two U.S. Citizens Deported Under New Executive Order

U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) deported Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an Arizona mother of two U.S. citizen children, on February 8 after she was apprehended by immigration officers during a routine annual check-in with ICE. Garcia de Rayos’ deportation followed President Donald Trump’s new executive order on interior enforcement, which increases the number of undocumented immigrants considered to be priorities for removal. Garcia de Rayos, now 35 years old, came to the United States without documentation when she was 14 years old. In 2008, she was arrested during a work-site immigration raid and convicted of a felony for using a fake social security number. As a result, Garcia de Rayos became the subject of a removal order in 2013 and was placed under court-ordered supervision, which required her to report to ICE until her order was “affected,” or acted on. She checked-in with ICE on February 8 for the eighth time since 2008 and the first time since Trump’s executive order on interior enforcement went into effect. Garcia de Rayos was arrested at the ICE office and deported to Nogales, Mexico within 24 hours. ICE said that they reviewed her case and acted on the removal order. Critics of Trump’s executive order on interior enforcement note that it will force ICE to allocate time and resources deporting non-violent undocumented immigrants rather than focusing its efforts on violent criminals and other threats to community safety.

Arizona Bill Would Impose Fines on Refugee Resettlement Agencies

A new bill introduced in the Arizona Senate would suspend Arizona’s participation in the refugee resettlement program indefinitely and impose a fine of $1,000 a day per refugee on any charity or other group that provides services to refugees. SB 1468, introduced by State Senator Judy Burges (R – Arizona), cannot stop refugees from coming to Arizona, since refugee resettlement is a federal responsibility. However, the bill would end cooperation and coordination between the federal government and the state of Arizona on refugee resettlement. The bill would also impose fines on charities or other groups that provide services to refugees, which could affect religious organizations who work on refugee resettlement. Furthermore, if a refugee is arrested, the charity would be financially liable for the cost of arrest, prosecution and incarceration of that person. Burges said that the intent of the bill is to spark a discussion, noting she does not think it is likely to become law.

Texas Senate Passes Anti-Sanctuary Jurisdiction Law that Could Remove Elected Officeholders

On February 8, the Texas State Senate passed Senate Bill 4 by a party-line 20 to 11 vote. The bill would withhold state funding from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain individuals while ICE examines their immigration status. Federal courts have increasingly found ICE immigration detainers that are issued without criminal warrants to be voluntary and legally questionable, exposing the jurisdictions who honor them subject to civil liability. Critics have also noted that immigration enforcement carried out by local law enforcement can have a detrimental effect on community trust.

Senate Bill 4 includes a provision that would allow for criminal charges against city or county elected officials who do not comply with requests from federal immigration officers. If convicted, these local elected officials would face immediate removal from office. The bill applies to law enforcement in cities, counties and college campuses. On January 25, Governor Gregg Abbott (R – Texas) said that he would work on legislation to remove Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez after she announced she would not honor immigration detainers that are not accompanied by a warrant. Earlier this month, in response to Hernandez’s announcement, ICE began issuing warrants along with detainer requests.

Senate Bill 4 now goes to the Texas House, which has a large Republican majority. Abbott has pledged to sign the bill into law if it passes the House.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

There were no relevant immigration-related government reports on the week of Monday, February 6, 2017.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Christian Penichet-Paul, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Christian can be reached at cpenichetpaul@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.